Those of us who practice daily journalism usually make like cowboys and keep our eyes on the horizon for what’s coming next. But sometimes, one of us has to double back to check on something behind us that was left with too many questions.
That’s where we found ourselves in February with the strange twist out of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Through its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the agency disclosed for the first time that a 29-state Salmonella outbreak associated with cucumbers had occurred last summer (although there had not been any public notice whatsoever).
This was troubling. MMWR is “the voice of CDC,” meaning its house organ. The authors of this article had an exclusive because CDC failed to issue the normal report on the outbreak.
For the public, the response to the MMWR report was, “WTF?” How is it that our federal government can keep secret for many months a 29-state Salmonella outbreak resulting in 275 confirmed illnesses and one death? Then there were the cucumbers from the Delmarva region of Maryland, which were linked to the outbreak but never recalled.
We needed a volunteer to ride back and get some answers. My colleague James Andrews graciously agreed to be the one who would step back in time and check on the situation. This past week, he produced one of those only inFood Safety News stories that brought us to the investigators themselves at CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.
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